Blockchain, the database processing technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, is its way to becoming as big a disruptor as the Internet, Reid Hoffman, a venture capitalist with Greylock and the cofounder of LinkedIn, said onstage at the Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen.
He wasn’t willing to put a timeline on how long it might take for the blockchain to rise to any kind of primacy. But he compared the technology’s potential to the Internet back in 1993.
Hoffman isn’t standing on the sidelines. He has bet on the emerging technology through a startup called Blockstream that is building a service for letting others harness blockchain for building their own tools, from financial exchanges to other uses that we can’t even foresee yet.
Before delving into the far future, Hoffman’s co-panelist, Aneel Bhusri, CEO of Workday, focused on how executives can take advantage of predictive analytics and in-house data to help manage their organizations today—or at least in the next few months. One of the things his company’s software does is take data from inside and outside an organization to predict whether an employee might be falsifying expense reports or whether they are likely to quit.
That trend of using data to understand how employees or shoppers may behave is an important trend in the technology industry. Everything from enterprise software companies to Netflix are incorporating it into their products. This trend has privacy ramifications, as interviewer Adam Lashinsky, from Fortune, pointed out when he asked if a manager might get an alert that he updated his LinkedIn profile under the assumption that he was searching for a new job. The fear, he expressed, was that his employer might fire him.
“It’s a data point,” Bhusri said, downplaying the possibility. Hoffman’s response was that good managers—99.9% of them—would use that information to try to retain an employee in that example.
And finally, in true enterprise software fashion, Bhusri couldn’t resist trash talking his larger rivals from the stage. When asked about how his competitors are handling cloud computing, the use of computing power managed by others, Bhusri quipped, “SAP is more lost than Oracle when it comes to the cloud,” because it was re-purposing 25-year-old software to build a cloud product.